The extremely-sharp Branko Milanovic asks a very good question that I had never considered before:
Economic Reflections on the Fall of Constantinople: This Sunday, May 29 marks the anniversary of the Fall of Constantinople in 1453...:
...Thinking of... what is called (somewhat inaccurately) the Eastern Roman Empire, led me to two, I hope interesting, observations. First, why did the Industrial Revolution not happen in the Eastern Roman Empire?... There are many answers... from... ‘barbarians at the gate’... inability to incorporate lower classes... ‘dead hand’ of a rising military bureaucracy... slavery: cheap labor that provided no incentive for the use of labor-saving machines... [to] those who... thought, like Moses Finley and Karl Polanyi, that Roman institutions did not contain at all the seeds that could have led to capitalist development.... Constantinople become the capital in 330 AD... and that lasted for another 800 to 900 years with no interruption. (That is, if we want to date the end of the Roman Empire in 1204 when Byzantium was conquered by the Crusaders). Wasn’t there enough time to find out if ancient institutions could become capitalistic? Eight or nine centuries seems plenty.